Friday, March 1, 2013

Robert Rauschenberg - by Keara Mageras

Robert Rauschenberg was an American painter and graphic artist. He was born in Port Arthur, Texas in October 1925 and passed away in May 2008. Rauschenberg is famous for revolutionizing postwar modern art. He is considered the link between Abstract Expressionism (Pollock, de Kooning, etc.) and Pop Art/Conceptualism. His reaction against Abstract Expressionism set the scene for the Pop Art of the 1960's. As a fan of Modern Art (especially Pop Art), I was interested in Rauschenberg's work and his contributions to the modernist movement.

Rauschenberg's style is certainly unique. He defied the traditional idea that an artist should stick to one medium. Instead, he saw the artistic potential in any object or subject. As Rauschenberg explained, "I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly... because they're surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable." I believe this quote is an excellent representation of Rauschenberg's optimism and good nature, which can be seen throughout his art.

Rauschenberg expressed the fact that he wanted to work "in the gap between art and life." I believe he was successful in this endeavor based on his use of everyday objects and his subject choice. Rauschenberg often alluded to cars and spaceships, a reflection on modern life and the technology that dominated modern era. Furthermore, many of Rauschenberg's paintings were collages, which acted as symbols of modern culture. The visual incongruity of a collage can be seen as a metaphor to the fast paced, chaotic, modern world that was developing at this time.

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Sky Garden, 1969 

Sky Garden is a combination of a planographic, stencil lithograph, and screenprint. In 1969 Rauschenberg was invited by NASA to view the launch of Apollo 11. They provided him with scientific maps, charts, and photographs of the lunch. The result was Rauschenberg's Stoned Moon Series - a series of 33 lithographs that celebrated man's exploration of space. 

I like this piece because it uses a variety of colors, sources, and styles to provide a visual representation of the excitement surrounding America's space exploration. I believe Rauschenberg successfully captured the positivity that surrounded this modern exploration. 

Persimmon, 1964

Persimmon is an interesting combination of oil and silkscreen on canvas. This piece includes a reproduction of the fine art image Venus at her Toilet by Peter Paul Rubens. Rauschenberg juxtaposes the Venus with fix images taken from daily papers. Beneath the nude is a large human eye. It is clear that Rauschenberg is mixing old with new. Critics have explored the possibility that he is confronting the limitations of past art by juxtaposing fine art with modern images. I like this combination of old and new - it focuses your attention on the aesthetic qualities of each art form. The inclusion of the Venus's reflection in the mirror and the human eye draws the viewer into a more personal role. The human eye almost acts as a reminder of your role as the viewer.

Retroactive I, 1964

In Retroactive I, Rauschenberg juxtaposes imagery of JFK with Apollo 11. This piece is interesting because it takes two very relevant topics at the time (the presidency and space launch) and removes them from their typical context. By combining these two images, Rauschenberg is opening a new dialogue on American culture and modern issues.

Lanchner, Carolyn. Robert Rauschenberg. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009. Print.

Hunter, Sam. Robert Rauschenberg. New York: Rizzoli, 1999. Print.

Mattison, Robert S. Robert Rauschenberg : Breaking Boundaries. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003. Print.

Kimmelman, Michael. "Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, Dies at 82." The New York Times.     N.p., 14 May 2008. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <>.

No comments:

Post a Comment